Everyone knows what the signs of healthy teeth look like, but can you say the same thing about healthy gums? While not typically considered to be the arbiters of bodily health, your gums and surrounding tissues can give you a surprising amount of insight into what’s going on in the rest of your body, similar to what your teeth say about your health. Healthy gums themselves are important when it comes to staving off diseases like gingivitis or infections, but your dentist can use the color, size, and firmness of your gums to tell you what areas of dental care you need to focus on—and even if you are susceptible to other diseases.
How Are Oral Health and General Health Connected?
Your mouth is your gateway to your body, and as such, it’s connected to other parts of your physiology in ways you might find surprising. Signs of nutrient deficiency or poor general health will sometimes present themselves in the mouth first, perhaps through changes in smells or visual discoloration. Signs of bad teeth, for example, might indicate a calcium deficiency or bone disorder.
Your gums (and mouth in general) have multitudes of blood vessels and nerves running through them and are highly reactive to changes in the body. If your gums look unhealthy, there’s a significant chance there are underlying issues at play, and if your body is unhealthy, it can let you know through your gums. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the signs of gum health.
Signs That Your Gums Are Healthy: Healthy Gums Color
Now you might be wondering: What do healthy gums look like? Since we’re most often taught the signs of healthy teeth, this is an understandable question. In general, healthy gums are pink in color, firm to the touch, and do not recede too far down the outer face of your teeth. Healthy gums also do not bleed when flossed and can handle exposure to hot or cold foods without causing you pain or sensitivity.
With this in mind, look out for signs that your gums may need medical attention. Gums that are pale in color, receding (sometimes so far that the root of the tooth is exposed), sensitive to temperature or touch, or bleed excessively are all symptoms of underlying issues that require treatment from your dentist. And while these signs can point to disease in other parts of the body, the vast majority of unhealthy gum cases come from gum disease.
Gum Disease, Diabetes, and Heart Diseases
According to the Center for Disease Control, it’s estimated that almost 50% of Americans aged 30 or older struggle with gum disease. The most common gum disease is called gingivitis and it is a chronic degenerative disease that erodes gum tissue over time. If left untreated, gingivitis can lead to infection and eventual tooth loss as the tissue holding your teeth in place recedes.
Gum disease has also been linked to other serious conditions like diabetes. Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to greater concentrations of bacteria in the mouth, which in turn can make gum disease worse and take longer to heal. There have also been some studies linking gum disease to heart disease. While it is understood that poor gum health is not a cause of heart disease, research indicates there may be a link that isn’t fully understood by the medical community yet. Preventive dentistry like brushing twice a day, flossing, using mouthwash, and keeping biannual checkup appointments with your dentist are crucial in preventing chronic gum disease at home. If the disease progresses too far, you may have to discuss restorative dentistry treatment options with your dentist.
Other Diseases and Symptoms Linked to Poor Gum Health
Since your gums are essentially mirrors for your body, abnormal appearance or other symptoms may indicate the presence of other diseases. If you feel you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s vital that you make an appointment with your dentist for further evaluation.
Dry Gums Can Indicate Immune System Disorders
Rheumatic diseases or lupus can affect the mucous membranes of your eyes and mouth, drying them out. Dry gums can contribute to gum disease without the protective layer of saliva coating them.
Pale Gums May Be a Symptom of Anemia
Again, if you’re wondering what color your gums should be, pink to light red indicates optimal blood flow and tissue health. Anemia is a blood condition that results in lower levels of the protein hemoglobin in the bloodstream. Hemoglobin gives blood its red color, and since the skin of your gums is thin enough to see through, paleness in the gums may indicate a lack of iron-rich hemoglobin.
Receding Gums May Be Caused by Stress or Sleep Apnea
Bruxism is the clinical term for grinding your teeth, and it’s considered to be a symptom of stress or anxiety. The pressure from bruxism can cause your gums to recede over time. Similarly, sufferers of sleep apnea often have dry mouth from breathing through their mouth during the night. This can also cause a recession in the gum line.
Keeping Your Gums Healthy With Treatment
Good oral care at home is your main defense against gum disease and deterioration. Brushing, flossing, and other dentist-recommended care routines effectively prevent and even reverse mild to moderate gum disease in children and adults. If you notice that your gums are still showing symptoms of poor health even with a proper care regimen, it might be time to contact your dentist for a consultation and potential treatment. If you require family dentistry with experienced, caring professionals, call Spanish Springs Family Dentistry today and make an appointment. Your gum health is important to your overall health, so trust our team to ensure they’re both getting the care they need.